September 08, 2019 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating traces of uranium found at a facility in Tehran on Sunday. The findings strengthen Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Iran had a “secret atomic warehouse.”
The UN watchdog’s visit was part of its “ongoing interactions” with Tehran, including “verification and monitoring in Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the technical name for the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Reuters‘ reported on Sunday that two diplomats with knowledge of the IAEA’s inspection said uranium traces had been found at an Iranian warehouse. The IAEA reportedly asked Iran to explain the findings, but Tehran has not responded.
In September, 2018, Netanyahu told the United Nations that his intelligence agents had discovered a “secret atomic warehouse” in downtown Tehran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency official’s visit comes on the heels of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency’s announcement on Saturday it has begun injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges in a further violation of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
During a live news conference on Saturday, Iran’s Atomic Energy Spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi warned that “Europeans should know that there is not much time left” to save the 2015 nuclear deal.
Earlier in the week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to accelerate its nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution by Friday.
2015 Nuclear Deal
The 2015 nuclear deal – agreed on by Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States offered relief from many international sanctions in exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear program.
Since U. S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last year and reimposed sanctions, Iran has insisted it wants to save the pact but has demanded the remaining world powers provide additional economic support.
Iranian leaders first threatened to begin enriching uranium at higher levels in May, one year after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, bringing new sanctions against the country. A spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency announced mid-June plans to enrich uranium up to 20 percent at the end of the month — just short of weapons-grade levels. The announcement was made just before a scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, putting more pressure on Europe to come up with new terms for the nuclear deal.
On July 2, the IAEA confirmed Iran had indeed breached the Uranium stockpile limits. President Trump signed an executive order targeting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Foreign Minister with financial sanctions. Trump told reporters at the White House Iran must never have a nuclear weapon.
U.S. — Iran Tensions
Both the United States and Iran continue to insist they do not want war, but since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 Nuclear Deal last year, tensions between the two countries leaders has continued to escalate.
The escalation includes recent incidents of ships mysteriously attacked, drones downed and numerous oil tankers seized in the Strait of Hormuz. The latest—Iran’s coast guard announced Saturday it seized a boat and arrested 12 Filipino crewmen suspected in a fuel-smuggling ring in the Strait of Hormuz.
After Iran threatened to accelerate its nuclear activities for a third time last week, the Trump administration announced new sanctions —this time targeting a shipping network it said was run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to allegedly smuggle oil.
Strait of Hormuz—What’s at Stake?
The Strait of Hormuz separates Iran to the north and the Musandam Governorate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates to the south. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and the world’s most strategically important maritime choke point and a main artery for the transport of oil from the Middle East.
Approximately 22.5 million barrels of oil a day passed through the Strait of Hormuz on average since the start of 2018, according to Vortexa, an energy analytics firm. That’s roughly 24% of daily global oil production, and nearly 30% of oil moving over the world’s oceans.
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